White matter hyperintensities on T2-weighted MRI images among DNA-verified older familial hypercholesterolemia patients

L Hyttinen, T Autti, S Rauma, S Soljanlahti, A F Vuorio, T E Strandberg
Acta Radiologica 2009, 50 (3): 320-6

BACKGROUND: Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a genetic disorder, causing an increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) if untreated. Silent brain infarctions and white matter hyperintensities (WMHIs) observed on T2-weighted magnetic resonance images (MRI) are associated with increased risk for stroke and myocardial infarction. Age is a strong predictor of WMHIs.

PURPOSE: To use MRI to assess the presence of clinically silent brain lesions in older FH patients, and to compare the occurrence and size of these lesions in older FH patients with middle-aged FH patients and healthy controls.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: A total of 43 older (age >or= 65 years) FH patients with the same FH North Karelia mutation, living in Finland, were identified. In this comprehensive cohort, 1.5 T brain MRI was available for 33 individuals (age 65-84 years, M/F 9/24, mean duration of statin treatment 15.3 years). This group was divided into two age categories: 65-74 years (FHe1 group, n=23) and 75-84 years (FHe2 group, n=10). Infarcts, including lacunas, and WMHIs on T2-weighted images were recorded. Data from brain MRI were compared to those of a group of middle-aged FH patients with CHD (n=19, age 48-64 years) and with middle-aged healthy controls (n=29, age 49-63 years).

RESULTS: Only two (6%) of the older FH patients had clinically silent brain infarcts detected by MRI. The amount of large WMHIs (>5 mm in diameter) was similar in the FHe1 group compared with the groups of middle-aged FH patients and healthy controls, even though the FHe1 group was 13 years older. The total amount of WMHIs and the amount of large WMHIs were greatest in the FHe2 group.

CONCLUSION: FH patients aged 65 to 74 years receiving long-term statin treatment (15 years) did not have more WMHIs on brain MRI compared to middle-aged FH patients and healthy controls.

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